Monday, 31 August 2009

The obligatory Goodbye Doer post

I am a blogger (among many other things) and I live in Manitoba, therefore I am required by blogging convention to do a post about Doer's resignation, whether you want to read it or not.

A few months back I wrote about Doer potentially resigning. I did not predict it one way or the other, but what I said was:

Will his remarkable timing continue? Much depends on what happens federally. If the Conservatives stay in power as the economy recovers, or if the Liberals manage to get a majority, you can bet that they will again be looking for ways to chop spending and get the federal budget back on track, right about the time of our next Provincial election. This would put Doer in the same shoes as his predecessor, faced with declining revenues and tough decisions to make, should he get re-elected. You can bet that Doer will keep a watchful eye on that possibility, and quit while he's ahead if that's where things are heading. Whatever happens, you can bet he'll retire from politics smelling like a rose.
Indeed he is, although the timing of his resignation appears to be more of a happy coincidence than the cause. His successor, and I will not speculate on who that may be, will not have as easy a go of it for two reasons: the first is referred to in the quote above, and the second is that they will not have Doer's smiley charm that allowed him to slither away from scandals and failures.

Ok then .. what grade should we give him? What will his legacy be? For sure, he will go in the books as a successful Premier. He presided over a prosperous era, recorded a series of balanced budgets (sort of), and ran a boring show in a profession where "exciting" usually corresponds with "controversial" and "short lived". He made a series of modest tax cuts and kept most voters happy. One might look at this record and give him a B or B+. Nothing astounding for sure, but steady.

In my mind, however, Doer's term in office represents a wasted opportunity. It corresponded with one of the most prosperous eras in this country's history. Instead of taking this opportunity to reduce our provincial debt, he increased it. Instead of reducing our dependency on equalization payments, he increased it dramatically. Instead of reducing corporate taxes to draw private investment, he decreased small business taxes which will have a very marginal return in terms of job growth. Instead of keeping our personal income taxes in line with our neighbouring provinces, he kept tax brackets frozen and opted for small decreases, making us less competitive.

In short, he didn't take the opportunity to use the economic boom, which is now over, to position ourselves for the future. Our province's economy, including our valuable hydro resource, is burdened by debt and overly dependent on government jobs and government spending. This isn't as much of a problem now as it will a few years down the road. It's Doer's successors who will really feel the pain of his economic mis-management, and will be forced to transfer that pain to the people.

Further, his administration has been plagued with scandals, and he has failed miserably in the environment department (although he has a green image because most of our power comes from Hydro electricity) as well as in health care. He never did keep his initial promise to end "hallway medicine". Curtis Brown says that he is sure Doer has repeatedly regretted making those promises. To the contrary, I am sure he does not. Those promises got him elected. He knew it wasn't doable without massive reforms to the health care system and/or massive tax hikes, but he didn't care because it got his ass into the Premier's chair.

Gary Doer is not a man of bold action. He is more of a "don't rock the boat" sort of guy." He is not a leader, but a caretaker. I challenge any of you to point out a difficult decision that he made during his tenure in office. A truly difficult decision ... the kind of unpopular choice that a real leader would make for the betterment of the province. They are few and far between, if they exist at all.

Doer may make an excellent ambassador to the US. His charisma and rolodex (do they still make those?) will serve him well, and I suspect that he can be quite compelling in closed door discussions. As a Premier, however, he didn't have the fortitude to do what was right. C-


AJ said...

Well said. Doer exposed a sad fact about the people in this province, namely that the public/voters reward do nothing status quo politicians with majority mandates. This of course does not say much for the people in this province. I guess ultimately we get the government we deserve. Baring some major changes, this province is going to continue to go down the tubes; not everyone in the province can work for the government (civil servants, crown corps, universities, health care, social services, etc) or be on welfare, there have to be other good paying jobs.

Gustav Nelson said...

I've got to say that this is probably one, if not the best, summary of Gary Doer!
Interesting to see what will happen now.
Is this the end of the NDP rule?

cherenkov said...

AJ / Gustav: thank you for your comments.

Is this the end of NDP rule? Hard to say. I could certainly envision an another NDP minority or small majority if the Liberals fail to raise their profile and if the Conservatives fail to present a responsible platform. I am predicting a good ol' Michael Vick-style dog fight in the next election.

unclebob said...

Compared to most other historical figures, he has been much more successful at mollifying the left and keeping them in power rather than pandering to their ideological demands. He should get credit for that difficult job.

In doing so he has gradually moved us left but avoided harsh scrutiny by his grinning face and two fortuitous events a) good economy and b) bad opposition

Was he great - NO! Could it have been worse? YES

cherenkov said...

He could have been worse ... sadly, the measuring stick for our politicians.

unclebob said...

This post is certainly a well thought out synopsis of the Doer years - I hope you don't mind if I republish it (with your appropriate credit)

cherenkov said...

Feel free, Bob. Thanks.

OMMAG said...

So for roughly 1986 through 2009 ... We've had this pathetic excuse grinning it up around our province.

From 1999 premier ... overseeing the worst fiscal mismanagement in this province's history..

And only after he quits ...

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